The 21st century looks towards security, justice, economic development and a democratic polity as the pillars of nation building. Security comes first in the pecking order because the other three pillars function effectively only if the security threshold on the nation, both internal and external, remains intact. This in turn facilitates smooth functioning of democracy and brings in its wake social justice and economic development. Unfortunately, in states where the roots of democracy are not firmly embedded, security becomes a victim of inefficient, parochial and dithering attitudes that form the essence of the messy business that defines democracy. This in turn opens windows of opportunity to the armed forces to take over the reins of governance.
In the Indian sub continent, the armies of states littoral to India have, instead of providing the security umbrella to their countries, exploited the system to seize power and have effectively stagnated the flow of the polity towards democracy.
The most visible case is Myanmar. Than Shwe, the head of the repressive military regime in Myanmar is deemed to be the sixth worst dictator in the world, a position earned by exhibiting a ruthless disregard for the rule of law and democratic aspiration of the people of Myanmar and by successfully keeping a Noble Laureate and champion of democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi imprisoned since 1990 despite international pressure to open up the polity and release the incarcerated leader. The recent protests by Buddhist monks in concert with the people of Myanmar witnessed a patient response by the repressive government for exactly 24 hours. The police and the Army have opened fire on the peaceful procession without provocation in a manner that has sent shock waves in the international community and raised apprehensions of a possible holocaust.
Nepal’s tryst with destiny witnessed the Nepali Army extending full support to the pro-monarchy forces of King Gyanendra. The army stepped back only in the face of an overwhelming public support to the cause of democracy and a change over to the proposed republican political order.
In Bangladesh the corrupt regimes of the vitriolic Begums have been effectively quashed and the army has taken over the reins of governance. The assurances of a quick and smooth changeover to democratic functioning after purging the system of its ills sound old and jaded and hold little credibility in the eyes of politic analysts.
Sri Lanka has been embroiled in a long and costly insurgency movement mainly because of the chauvinistic attitude of its Army officered by feudal Sinhalas who do not favour giving equal rights to the Tamils and do not allow the flow of talks towards this plausibly inevitable direction. The island nation has lost out on the wonderful opportunities for development that its natural resources offer due to this debilitating internal strife.
The situation in Pakistan is well documented. Musharraf is rated as the 15th worst dictator in the world and has left no stone unturned to maintain his position. The political drama that is unfolding over the transition of power to civilians as promised will most probably end in a manner that benefits Musharraf and the Pakistani Army. Hence, democracy in Pakistan will continue to be a pipe dream.
The foregoing convincingly establishes that India is surrounded by military led governments that are unwilling to shed their personalised agendas in favour of a more progressive society. Further, the regimes, in response to their overwhelming sense of insecurity, are working overtime to export their repressive tenets into India in the form of terrorism, population migration, narco-terrorism and extremists ideology. The resultant continued instability from all sides poses a very serious threat to the security of the nation whose mechanisms of governance are severely strained in the face of these challenges. It also establishes that dictatorial regimes are rejected by the people and they are unable to provide satisfaction with respect to any of the four pillars of nation building.
In India democracy, however tenuous, has managed to hold and the constitution as initially introduced continues to be sacrosanct. This has been facilitated, by no small measure, by the armed forces who have maintained, most scrupulously, the ideals enshrined in the constitution and have made a great contribution towards nourishment of democracy in the nation. The strength of the armed forces lies in their high standards of discipline and morale supported by a secular outlook and an apolitical demeanour. They have, in the highest spirit of nationalism, stepped forward to face all challenges posed to the nation and have been a pillar of support to the people who look up to them in times of crises. The capability of the nation to maintain its most significant pillar of security has contributed significantly to the progress that it has been recorded post independence.
[Image courtesy: http://www.hindu.com/edu/2005/06/06/images/2005060600160501.jpg]